Introductory note on the feral cat: I write this from the standpoint of someone who likes all cats and all animals. What underpins this article is that I like fair play, honesty and for people to respect animals (and people).
What is it about the feral cat that so polarizes society? What is it about the feral cat that makes many people in authority dislike them? And yet there are people, especially older women, with the gentlest of hearts and intelligent minds, who care deeply about the welfare of feral cats. They often end up fighting neighbours, the authorities and even the courts as a result of helping them. The feral cat divides a nation. In general, the division tends to be along the lines of alpha male to beta female.
What is an alpha male human? He is ambitious. He might run a business and likes to acquire money. Often they are in local, state and federal government or even in the veterinary profession. The right-wing ones like guns if they live in America. It is their right under the constitution to bear arms. And a good proportion of these like to take pot shots at feral cats.
They see the feral cat as a spreader of disease. This is made worse by the fact that they see the feral cat as a non-native species that attacks and destroys native species. These are convenient points of view that provide alpha male with an excuse to shoot or poison the feral cat. I say that these arguments are convenient excuses to persecute the feral cat because they place a non-native animal at a lower status than a native animal. Is that correct? Why should a non-native species be less important than a native species when it was pure chance in the first place that made a native species what it is. The false argument that non-native species are less important than native species is particularly galling to someone like me as it is the human, mainly alpha males, who introduced the cat to countries like America in the first place. They created the feral cat non-native species. I think it is very hypocritical and short sighted of some males (and females) of the human species to seek every opportunity to malign the feral cat or try and exterminate it under these irrefutable circumstances.
There is also the difficult matter of finding so called “facts” about the feral cat. People who dislike feral cats tend to convert anecdotes that criticise the feral cat to facts about feral cats. They don’t even know they are doing it. They often seem blind to the truth, so desperate are they to find a justification, any reason, to exterminate them.
Of course, not only are these people blind to their weak and hypocritical arguments they are also blind to the fact – yes a fact – that it is impossible to exterminate the feral cat. And in any case the feral cat is now so much part of the ecosystems of many countries that to exterminate it would almost certainly result in unforeseen and dire consequences.
As to the transmission of disease, the usual handle that the feral cat hater likes to pull or hold onto when arguing his case against the feral cat is toxoplasmosis. These horrible people rant and rave about how feral cats spread this terrible disease that turns us all mad. They have convinced themselves that toxomplasmosis is the number one threat to humankind. Toxoplasmosis is the ammunition that the feral cat hater uses to attack the cat. I would ask them to read some reliable books on the subject. I have, and I wrote a page on the subject: Truth About Toxoplasmosis and Cats.
There is no doubt that a hatred of the feral cat is handed down within families from parent to child and so on. They never challenge themselves on the matter of the veracity of their knowledge of the feral cat. Their beliefs are deep rooted. It is part of their culture. These people represent a sizable proportion of the populations of various countries.
Although this battle over large segments of society rages on there are also microcosmic wars going on within smaller groups. The classic case is the apartment block with communal gardens. Within these complexes it isn’t even just the feral cat that has trouble, domestic cats belonging to people are also sometimes outlawed and persecuted in an illegal manner. The reason why apartment blocks are battlegrounds over the cat generally is because people in apartments are living much closer together. Also within society about 30% of people dislike cats, 50% like cats and the rest fall in between (that is not a fact, just my opinion).
What of the people who cannot ignore the plight of the feral cat? The gentle old lady. They see an animal that needs help. The feral cat does need help. They live on the fringe of human society and settlements living short miserable lives. Many are stray cats. They are not true feral cats. They had “owners”. They are becoming feral cats and their offspring will be feral cats. One thing for sure and which you cannot deny an old lady who feeds feral cats, and perhaps operates a trap-neuter-program, is that she is a good women. She may be argumentative and difficult but she is single-handedly discharging the obligations of all people in acting responsibly towards the feral cat because it is our problem. We created the feral cat problem and we therefore have a duty to resolve it humanely. Nothing else will do.
There are many instances of good women who are given a hard time when they try and do what the authorities should be doing with public funds: finding a way to mop up our problems. People – and some are, of course, men – who care for feral cats should not end up at court defending their actions. Courts have to follow the law. They have to apply the law. The law is made by politicians. And politicians are often alpha males who don’t care about the feral cat. That is why the gentle old lady sometimes has to resolutely fight the alpha male in court. That is one more reason why these ladies deserve our admiration.
The problems of the feral cat needs a sea change in attitude in respect of cat carekaking so that all cat owners are educated in cat behavior and keeping a cat in a way that is both in the interests of the cat and society. Long term proactive steps would achieve what the gun can’t, eliminate the feral cat and the feral cat problem in the most gentle and humane way.